The fishtank 15

Don't let a bad beat get you down: there's expert help at hand, simply email two-time WSOP champ Scott Fischman

Clearing things up

We play weekly games at work and the more we’ve played the more everybody thinks they’re an expert. Each problem we encounter we get three or four different viewpoints on what the actual ruling is. Could you please clear up the following: 1) What happens if a player turns his cards over thinking the betting is finished on a hand when, in actual fact, there are still bets to be made
2) Similarly, if a player is debating calling your all-in bet (on the turn) at heads-up, is he allowed to turn his cards over before making a call? My argument was that he could get a read by showing his hand and so isn’t allowed.
3) Lastly, we have established that when a tournament gets to heads-up the dealer becomes the small blind. Is this always the case, even if the other player was the big blind in the last hand before heads-up?


SF: The first two questions you asked come down to house rules. A lot of casinos have different interpretations of this rule, so you need to make a decision as to which rule you want to adhere to and stick to it. Generally, in tournaments players are not allowed to expose their cards while action is still pending, because it affects all the players in the tournament and not just the two players in the hand. Cash games are a different story, since action between two players truly only affects those in the hand, but this is subject to house rules as well. To answer your third question, yes, the small blind is always on the button in heads-up play, but the button goes to the last player that took the big blind. Basically, you can never take the big blind twice in a row.

Cold call

The other day I had the coldest run of cards ever. I carried on playing to try to get out of the run, believing it couldn’t possibly continue. But it DID! So if the deck’s gone cold should I quit for a while, play through it, or start making some big bluffs?

Tony Smart

SF: There’s no right or wrong answer, but what I like to do when the cards are cold is stop playing or change tables. You can try to make some bluffs or concentrate on playing your position and see how the other players at the table react. If you’re at a table full of calling stations, this obviously isn’t going to help. If that’s the case, it’s probably time to take a break. If you’re in a tournament, you don’t have the luxury of changing tables when you feel like it, so you’ll just have to hang in there, steal when you can, and pick spots to make some moves. Some days there’s nothing you can do but lose; try to keep those days short and play long hours while you’re winning. Another thing you might try when you feel like you’re cold-decked is switch to a different game and mix things up that way.

Can you play like a WSOP winner? Email us your answer and win a travel chipset, courtesy of

The situation
Online cash game
Stakes: $3/$6 Stud

I’m in a pretty loose $3/$6 Stud game online and am dealt [6-6]-5. I complete and am called by four players. I continue to play the hand strong and by sixth street I am heads-up with [6-6]-5-A-J-A vs [x-x]-K-10-J-8. I bet and am called. I receive my seventh card and I bet out once again. You are my opponent, and you have been slow-playing K-9 in the hole. On the seventh card you catch a 7; for a straight (your hand is [K:-9;]-K-10-J-8-[7]).

The answer

My opponent decided to raise. I dislike this play for a number of reasons. Given his board, I’m putting him on a possible straight or fl ush draw, so if I’m betting on the end, I probably have his straight beat. Since I have Aces showing, if my opponent simply missed a draw, he’s going to fold, so my bet on the end would get me nothing. Perhaps I’m making a slim value bet with Aces up or trips, and hoping that a hand like Kings up will pay me off, but given the scary nature of my opponent’s board, this seems unlikely. If he hit one of his draws, he’s going to at least call and possibly raise.

I am better off checking a hand like trips or Aces up and just calling if he bets. I could just have Aces, but given that I’ve been betting all the way, that seems unlikely. Further, if I had only Aces, I’m only getting called if I’m beat, since my Aces are showing. Perhaps I’m trying to get a hand like Kings up to fold, but given the size of the pot, any hand that isn’t beaten on board is probably going to call. By raising he’s also opening himself up to being re-raised when he’s beaten, and his raise has no fold equity (there’s no chance I’ll fold a hand that beats a straight). So he either gains one extra bet if I made a poor bet on the end, or he loses two bets when he is beaten.

It turns out I had caught a Six on the end to make a full house, so I re-raised my opponent. This is where his play got even worse. He chose to cap (raise again) with his straight. Given that I re-raised into his scary board, I pretty much have to have a straight beaten. I can’t be bluffing, because I know any straight or flush won’t fold, and the most likely hands I’m putting him on when he raises is a straight or fl ush. While his initial raise was poor, his re-raise was just a donation.

If you decided to just call with your straight, you made the right decision. I know it’s diffi cult to just flat-call with a ‘made’ hand, but an important principle in poker is that you need to look beyond your own hand and think about what your opponents have. To really master the game, you need to go one level deeper and think about what kind of hand your opponent is putting you on.


A lot of you went for the raising option, and would have lost more money as explained above. Only Paul McCarthy from Birmingham advised just calling to see if your straight was good enough. So congrats to him – a chipset is on its way.

Next month

Jordan Morgan came second to win just over $400,000 in the US Poker Championship during October 2006. Play the following hand like him and win a travel chipset courtesy of

The situation:
US Poker Championship
The Taj, Atlantic City
Day 4, blinds 2500/5000, ante 500
Your chips: 900,000; 19 players left

I’m chip leader with 900k and the guy in second (Mike Santoro) has 600k and is sitting to my left. I open for 15k on the button with K-10 off-suit, and Mike makes it 40k from the small blind. He’s re-raised me several times during the day and has shown A-10 off-suit once. I’d folded to almost all of his re-raises previous to this. I decide that I can take this from him and I re-raise to 120k. He looks nervous, thinks for a short while, and then calls. The flop comes K-Q-2 with two hearts and he leads out for 200k leaving himself about 280k. What hand would you put him on and what would you do?

Send your answers to – the best one will win a chipset. Find out what Jordan did soon.

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